by PuckStopsHere on 06/29/12 at 03:01 PM ET
Free agency is looming in the NHL. Big name players are already signing some big contracts and the real madness does not begin for a couple years. Yesterday we saw Sidney Crosby sign a 12 year $104.4 contract with Pittsburgh and Jonathan Quick sign a 10 year $58 million contract with Los Angeles. Potential free agent Dennis Wideman signed a five year $26.25 million contract after his rights were traded to Calgary. The length and value of these contracts are significant and clearly show that there are teams that are willing to pay some significant amounts of money to lock up some talent. This is the case with the healthy NHL teams. They are growing in revenue and are anxious to lock up as good players as possible for their future.
The Gary Bettman NHL wants changes to the CBA to lower the player’s share of revenue and likely to reduce the length of contracts. This makes the money being thrown around this summer likely phony money.
There is a good chance that the contract values signed this summer are never going to be paid out in the dollar figures they are signed for. The 2004/05 lockout saw players accept a 24% pay cut in existing salaries. It is quite likely a salary rollback will occur again. Thus it is acceptable to overpay a player in the phony money values on his contract. He will be paid less when the actual deal comes into play.
There is another facet to the Gary Bettman NHL. There is a desire to make the best teams the teams in the bigger markets. This is done with the increased roster moves brought on by liberalized free agency and a salary cap. The best players will wind up in the best markets as they are more likely to be free to go wherever they wish. Sure a salary cap prevents all the best players in the league from being on the same team but it only takes one or two stars to make a team a winner in today’s parity filled NHL. This idea is working. Big markets like Los Angeles, Boston and Chicago have been the most recent Stanley Cup winners and that helps to raise overall NHL revenues.
This idea has been partially thwarted by the longterm contracts that have been handed out in this CBA. When Ilya Kovalchuk signed a longterm contract that had several cheap years tacked on at the end to reduce average value some steps were taken to reduce contract length. It is expected that more steps will be taken in the new CBA. There may be a limit to the length of contracts in the new deal. This will further facilitate player movement and get the best players into the best markets. That is why players are rushing to sign their longterm deals now. There will likely not be an option in the future.
This year’s free agency will be interesting. It is interesting because it is the last chance for players to get deals under the current rules. It looks likely that there will be a more owner-friendly agreement in the not too distant future. Many teams are trying to sign the players they want under the current rules and players are rushing to be signed under them. This isn’t what is wanted under the Gary Bettman NHL and changes are likely to come soon.
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